Book | Spirituality and Theology: Christian Living and the Doctrine of God by Philip Sheldrake

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Spirituality and Theology by Philip Sheldrake

This book is a gold mine for my research. Sheldrake connects the contemporary study of Christian Spirituality directly to the Social Trinity. He also provides an excellent historical summary of why spirituality and theology have been estranged since the dawn of the modern era.

My Annotated Scan of the section  The Significance of Trinitarian Theology. (75-83) He defends Augustine against accusations of individualism.

The fundamental truth of our existence is that human beings and God are both rooted in mutual self-giving love. To exist consists of being-in-relationship. (78)

Theologians he cites:

A truly Trinitarian spirituality not only recognizes the all-embracing nature of God’s initiative as against human achievement. It also understands that ‘perfection’ is to be found in an increase of communion between persons.

Thus, a spirituality that is informed by belief in a Trinitarian God counters any tendency to reduce Christian living to a solitary spiritual quest or to individual ethical behavior. Likewise such a spirituality, because it rejects the notion of God as isolated and disengaged, excludes any understanding of human holiness that involves being set apart from the material world. We are called upon to recognize and to respond to God who dwells within all things at all moments. Several contemporary Trinitarian writings emphasize the centrality of praise, or ‘doxology’, in Christian living. A Trinitarian perspective brings spirituality and theology together because doxology is central to the doctrine. The doctrine of the Trinity does not merely seek to speak about God (indeed emphasizes a certain reticence in speaking) but underpins a desire for God. From the earliest days of the Christian community, the life of the community and of individuals within it has been understood as a journey to God, through Christ and in the Spirit. Prayer does not merely express such a belief but is actually part of the process of the journey itself. Thus, praise, doxology, is not simply a way of stating things but is actually instrumental in drawing us into the relational mystery of God. Our ‘end’ is to be ‘in God’.

The Christian life may thus be described fundamentally as a movement of deification. For Christians, this movement takes place within the life of the Church. A vital dimension of the conversion or transformation implied by deification is a new capacity for relationship. Baptism reinforced by Eucharist roots our Christian living in the Spirit of Christ that anticipates the fullness of the Kingdom of God. This is not merely an assurance of some future new life but is also a mystical participation even now in the life of God. For example, to pray the ‘Our Father’ is more than merely an objective statement of Christian doctrine. To pray authentically can only happen from a place that is within God. The ‘end’ of human existence is communion, but not purely as free-standing people with a free-standing God. Rather our purpose and our hope is a communion between human persons that is bounded by the communion that is God’s own life. (82-83)

I will definitely be adding more quotes to this list…

“The Christian tradition rather importantly suggests that the language it uses is always provisional. The Christian way of seeing reality has sought a balance between the desire to speak of God and the need to recognize that God is ultimately beyond all we can say. This elusive aspect of God has been best expressed in the traditions of mysticism and spirituality. Spirituality without theology runs the danger of becoming private or interior. Theology, however, needs the corrective of spirituality to remind us that true knowledge of God concerns the heart as much as the intellect.” (32)

 

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